Doug's Dungeon - Unstable: The Spoilers So Far
Ooooooh can ye smell it? That’s the smell of new cardboard so new it’s not even here yet to be new! That’s right, it’s spoiler season for all us magic the gathering fans. But this is no ordinary set coming up. If you’ve been living under a rock let me be the first to say: wow, what’s it like to live under a solid piece of stone, and is it a rock+hole package like Patrick Star? Or do you just get flattened by it all the time? Nevermind. We’re getting off-topic. The new set coming out iiiiis… UNSTABLE! If you don’t know, Unstable is the third in a line of ‘Un’ sets that have been haphazardly released over magic’s history. And it’s kind of crazy.
Here’s the thing. When a game gets as old as magic, you tend to pick up some memes. From the almighty Storm Crow to putting lands in front of creatures, there’s all sorts of jokes for all different folks. The Un-sets are a (non-tournament legal) way for Wizards to cash in on the meme magic, and show off their otherwise unseen self-awareness. My particular favourite is the card Old Fogey from Unhinged. A beautiful way to encapsulate a history of forgotten game mechanics. But you don’t want to hear about all this. You wanna see some new stuff. But just hang on a second, because there is an actual non-’un’ card we need to approach first. But he is technically a spoiler, so we are ay-okay!
Now if you’re a little confused by this information overload, try being in the shoes of the poor saps opening packs from Future Sight back in the day. This abomination is in fact a reprint from a set all about “things that may or may not happen in the future”. Steamflogger is one of magic’s biggest memes, popping up in discussion over and over. Any time we are about to visit a mechanically minded plane, (mirrodin, kaladesh, etc) the murmurs start. Will this be the day of the contraption? Will we learn the true parenthesis text of ‘assembling’? WILL RIGGERS BE A VIABLE TRIBE??? Every time we were shut down, my friends. But not today. With the reveal of cards from Unstable, we now have the answers to ALL of these questions.
These… things, are contraptions. And here’s what we know about them. They are artifacts that start the game in their own little 15 card deck. And they are only drawn and played when another card from Unstable asks you to ‘assemble’ one. But they don’t just drop into play, no no. When you assemble a contraption, you need to assign it to one of your 3 imaginary ‘sprockets’. You cycle through each sprocket at the start of each of your turns, activating all contraptions assigned to that sprocket. You could have evenly built sprockets or have them all dumped into one mega-sprocket that only mega-triggers every 3 turns. We havn’t seen nearly enough to talk contraption combos (combotraptions, if you will), but we know there are 5 ‘sets’ of them that assemble into a panroma of the five factions present in the set (check mythic spoiler for a preview of that). With 9 cards in each, that’s 45 of these mechanical monstrosities that you’ll be grabbing two at a time from every Unstable pack!
I absolutely love what they’re doing here. Wizards didn’t have to make a cohesive theme. The previous Un-sets sold perfectly well with a bunch of unrelated cards that had to stand up on their own jokes. Unglued was about being “Lol Random!” whereas Unhinged had a theme of using fractions for numbers and… donkeys? (Mostly it was so they could print the word ‘ass a bunch’). What this means for Unstable is they really wanted to make something really silly, but also make it feel like magic. I never really played the previous un-sets, but without a theme and a solid grounding in the core game, you’d probably get tired of relying purely on luck and silliness to win a match (like Hearthstone. Yeah I went there).
But it’s not all contraptions and riggers. Wizards clearly knows what the public wants, and they want infeasible card designs. My current front-runner is this guy:
Maybe its because I have a soft spot for the hangman game, but if you ever feel the itch to play a game within a game, and don’t ever want to experience Shahrazad, you. Need. this. Man. Now let’s break down his appropriately wordy activated ability. Anyone in the game can force anyone else to guess a letter of your secret word. Guess wrong, and Hangman grows. The wording means you can, repeatedly i might add, force your opponent to grow your dude. The biggest he can get is 21/21 if you grab a 6 letter word with no repeated letters and your opponent is brain-dead. The issue is he dies the moment they can guess it. Add to that your opponent’s ability to activate hangman on themselves to go for the solve means you need to get creative with the word you pick.
Now 6 to 8 letters is a harsh restriction, but fair. I’d rather not have to guess ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’. Some great picks I’ve seen are ‘nymphs’, ‘larynx’, ‘rhythm’. But you really have to get a read on your opponent. Any professional hangmaner knows (there’s DOZENS of us!) when they’re being ‘no-voweled’ and the list they guess from shortens significantly. What you need to use are rare words with odd vowel placements. Good candidates are ‘fuchsia’ (no repeats, frustrating vowel placements), ‘jaywalk’ (contains j) and ‘spritz’ (you are now a demon). I’ll be seeing you all on the hanging fields.
Now that’s not nearly all of the cards revealed online thus far, but I’ll be sure to do another write-up when they top Hangman. Stay tuned, Riggers!
I'm an avid lover of all things table top. I also have a growing collection of board games which inspire me to create my own. I put my loud and expressive personality to good use as a dungeon master for my friends, having run many campaigns through 4th and 5th edition D&D.
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